“No one should have to choose between buying their medication and feeding their children,” shared Aisha Achesah, MPH, the program coordinator of the hospital-based food pantry at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. Aisha has watched the program grow over the last several years to meet the needs of patients.
The food pantry started in 2018 when a social worker in the hospital’s oncology department noticed many of the cancer patients didn’t know where their next meal might come from. She heard patients were splitting their pills in half so they would have money to buy food or pay utilities.
“We wanted to reduce the barriers to helping someone live well and having enough food to eat is essential,” Aisha explained.
The hospital partnered with Lakeview Food Pantry and began providing a 20-25-pound bag of nonperishable food to eligible patients once a month. The bag contains items such as canned meat and vegetables, pasta, oatmeal and other household essentials like light bulbs and toothbrushes. The hospital screens patients for need and found many require public transportation and some are even homeless. Your support to Advocate Aurora Health Foundations enabled the purchase of “wheelie bags” to help patients transport the items from hospital to home.
“Each person receives one wheelie bag and brings it in every month. I have a man whose wife is an oncology patient and he brings it in once a month during her appointments and gets their pantry items then,” Aisha says.
The program quickly grew from serving oncology patients to helping people in seven other service lines, with a long-term goal to include the entire hospital. Foundation support also enabled them to partner with a local food distributor for a fresh produce delivery once a month for up to a year. The pantry managers rave about the program and so do the patients.
“I am so satisfied with this program. All the things I received helped me a lot, especially since I live with my daughter. It brought something extra to our household,” shared a recipient. Another said, “The program helped to satisfy some of our most basic needs. I am thankful for it.”
And Aisha is grateful for donor support that makes it possible. “Why should our patients leave the hospital and not have everything they need? This is really filling an important gap for them and we are so grateful.”
How you can help
The food pantry program at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center is supported by the generosity of donors like you. To make a gift, click here.